Saturday, 9 October 2021

Milanović: Police Can’t Act Like That, It’s Good That Measures Are Being Taken

ZAGREB, 9 Oct, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday he was confident the case of Croatian police who took part in violence against migrants on the Bosnian border was an isolated case, adding that police must not act like that and that it was good that measures were being taken.

"I believe it's an isolated case because otherwise that would be seen and known. Police must not act like that and that's obviously overstepping one's authority," he told the press in Osijek.

"But we must also talk about the police officers who are doing a very tough job every day year-round for modest pay and are protecting the Croatian border. That's a tough job in the interest of the wider community. I wouldn't want the police as a service to be stigmatised because of this," he added.

"Somebody has to protect the border, border equals state. People coming to the border without authorisation and want to cross it are committing a criminal offence. Those are facts," he said, calling for resolving the recently reported case of Croatian police beating illegal migrants.

"If accountability is established, there should be consequences and punishment, but a problem remains. People, perhaps even families, gather on the Croatian border every day, who want to cross the border and go somewhere else, but that's illegal," he added.

Asked if there was individual or command responsibility in the latest case, Milanović said he did not know.

"I don't believe anyone ordered that. It's evidently an isolated case. I hope we have solved that. The border problem remains. We see that some states, our partners in the European Union a little more to the east, would like the European Union's border to have a fence. I wouldn't want that. I find it inhumane."

The president was in Osijek to attend a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Osijek Independent Air Platoon.

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Friday, 2 July 2021

Ressler: We Mustn't Give in to Pressure Regarding Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 2 July 2021 - Croatia must not give in to political pressure aimed at changing the policy of preventing illegal migration, Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler said on Friday, adding that Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEPs had been known to be "fall" for "campaigns lambasting" Croatia.

"From the very start of this European Parliament, we have been exposed to political pressure because of our protection of the external border and because of our ambition to become a member of the Schengen Area," Ressler told a virtual press conference called "Asylum, migration and the Schengen Area's functioning" that was organised by the EP's office in Croatia.

Several NGO's and some MEPs claim that Croatia is illegally pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we draw closer to joining the Schengen Area, the pressure in the EP has increased, said Ressler, adding that it is necessary to underline that there cannot be any double standards and that it is a duty to protect the EU's external border.

He added that that entails "respecting all human rights, all high Croatian, European and international standards."

Earlier this year four Italian MEPs (S&D) tried to get to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and they were prevented from doing so by Croatian police. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković then said that it was an attempt to mar Croatia's reputation. SDP leader Peđa Grbin and his deputy Biljana Borzan, who is also an MEP, then condemned the fact that the Italian MEPs were prevented from getting to the border.

Ressler said that strong awareness exists among European leaders and institutions that "there is no room in Europe for illegally crossing borders."

State-secretary in the Interior Ministry Terezija Gras said that due to the accusations against Croatia that it was violating the rights of migrants, Croatia would allow an "informal visit" to the Croatian border so that the Commission and member states could be convinced of what Croatia has done with regard to improving its technical equipment on the border with BiH and to strengthen its police capacities.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated politics page.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Twice as Many Illegal Migrants Reported on Balkan Route as Last Year - Večernji List

ZAGREB, 24 June 2021 - Migratory pressure on Europe is increasing again as the number of people illegally crossing the external borders of the European Union in the first five months of this year reached 47,100, which is an increase of nearly 50 percent compared with the same period last year, Večernji List newspaper said on Thursday. 

On the so-called Balkan route, 14,734 illegal attempts to cross the border were reported this year, or 104 percent more than at the same time last year. The Western Balkan countries reported 2,900 such attempts in May, which is twice as many as in May 2020. Most of the illegal migrants using this route come from Syria and Afghanistan.

These are the preliminary data released by the EU border and coast guard agency Frontex, which attributed the increase in numbers to the fact that the borders, which were closed last year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, are now being reopened.

The greatest pressure still comes from the Central Mediterranean route as nearly 4,200 migrants used this route to get to Europe in May, nearly twice as many as at the same time last year. Between January and May this year the number of illegal crossings on this route more than doubled, reaching 15,700.

Croatia lies on the Balkan route, with most migrants using it as a transit country on their way to other destinations in the EU. Even most asylum seekers, who arrive in Croatia from refugee camps in Greece and Italy under an EU relocation program, leave. Of 250 resettled persons whom Croatia accepted as part of the EU solidarity mechanism, 67 or 26.4 percent have stayed in Croatia.

That migrants do not see Croatia as their destination but only as a barrier on their way to other destinations is shown by the fact that Slovenia returned 9,871 illegal migrants to Croatia last year and 607 in the first four months of this year.

Croatia has seen an increase in the number of migrants illegally crossing its border this year. In the first quarter of 2021, 3,267 such cases were registered, which is at last year's levels, while compared with May 2019 their number increased by 17 percent. Most of the illegal migrants come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the burden of migration, Večernji List said.

For more news about Croatia, visit our dedicated page.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Two Bodies Found By The Road, Frozen On Papuk Mountain

January 26, 2021 – Multiple harrowing questions are posed by the tragic discovery yesterday of two bodies found frozen on Papuk mountain. They were at first suspected to be those of migrants. It is still not yet known how they came to be there, if they were travelling together or alone.

Famous for its wealth of covering forest, cascading streams, picturesque views and wildlife, Papuk is the largest mountain in Slavonia, eastern Croatia. It's actually a stretch of mountain range with an eponymous peak and the whole area is designated as a Nature Park. It draws thousands of visitors each year who come to enjoy its natural beauty and the opportunities for walking and hiking it provides. But, in a place we associate with the fullness of life, it is death that yesterday came to Papuk Nature Park.

Two bodies have been found frozen on Papuk. On a section of the Velika - Jankovac road, which runs north-south right through the heart of the Nature Park, winter service employees found the first body frozen on Papuk on Monday at around 9.45 am while clearing snow on the route with a plow. At around 3pm on the same day, a second body was found frozen on Papuk by a 41-year-old man working in the area. Both were bodies of young men. Details were provided by the Virovitica-Podravina Police Department.

Though the two bodies found frozen on Papuk were not discovered simultaneously, they were located quite close together - within 3 or 4 kilometres of each other. It is not currently known if the two persons were associated with one another, were travelling together or of what nationality they are. On the evening of Monday 25 January, it was suspected and being widely reported in Croatian media that the bodies found frozen on Papuk were those of migrants. 

If the persons were travelling through the area and were not alone, anyone alive and remaining within the mountainous area will be in a precarious position. Over recent days, temperatures within the park have reached daytime highs of -2. At night, the temperature has dropped to below -8. The snow is currently up to half a metre deep in some places on the Nature Park. As with many mountainous regions of Croatia at present, the snow continues to fall.

139805761_10159222223838324_401411676191381434_n.jpgThe snow is up to half a metre deep in some areas on Papuk at present. Over recent days, the nighttime temperature has dropped to below -8 © PP Papuk

If the bodies found frozen on Papuk are ascertained to be migrants, many will wonder just what they were doing there and how they came to be there. The area in which they were found is some 70 kilometres from the nearest border with Bosnia and is not on any existing route popularity attempted by migrants for passage into more westerly-lying countries in Europe. From Papuk, the next nearest European border is Hungary, just short of 50 kilometres to the north. The crossing of the border into Hungary again is not one presently chosen by migrants.

Croatia_location_map-2011-01-02.jpgMap of Croatia © NordNordWest derivative work: Southpawphilly (talk), adapted by TCN

“It's a very strange route,” TCN was told by a man who has spent extensive time with migrants in the Bosnian camps which lie just across the border from Croatia. He preferred not to be named in this article. “If they are migrants, it is possible that they wandered off route. But, in my opinion, that is highly unlikely because most of them use mobile phones (for navigation) even more than we do.”

“I'm really only guessing, which is all that anyone can do for now, but I think it is more likely that, if they are migrants, someone drove them halfway and just left them there, telling them that it was a place that it was not. That's very much something that some of the smugglers are capable of. They could have been driven across the border from Bosnia, taken to the edge of the mountains and told that Slovenia was just on the other side.”

For now, the identities of the bodies found frozen on Papuk remain a mystery, as do the circumstances of how they came to be there. Croatian media is reporting that they have unofficially learned that no documentation was found on either of the bodies. This has lead many to believe that the bodies found frozen on Papuk may actually be locals who had become trapped there by severe and deteriorating weather conditions. The immediate area in which the bodies were found experienced a snowstorm on Sunday, with up to half a metre of snow being deposited.

By the late morning of 26 January, some Croatian media were reporting they had learned that the men were not migrants but were, in fact, local men. The matter is under investigation by the police. A search of the area was undertaken and a survey of the surrounding terrain assessed in order to decide whether other services were needed to be called on for any continuing search.

By order of the County State's Attorney from Bjelovar, both bodies were transported to the Department of Pathology in OB Virovitica, for autopsy and identification. A brief police statement said the public would be notified after an autopsy was performed.

UPDATE: In the mid-afternoon of 26 January, police confirmed that the bodies were those of a 26-year-old and a 38-year-old, both from the local area. The men's families had performed the sad task of identifying their bodies. Later in the day, it was confirmed that the two men did in fact know each other - they were brothers-in-law.

TCN will be updating this story as and when we receive more and relevant details

Friday, 11 December 2020

Croatian and Slovenian Ministers Discuss Border Control, Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, Dec 11, 2020 - The interior ministers, Davor Bozinovic of Croatia and Ales Hojs of Slovenia, on Thursday held a video meeting on illegal migrants and the protection of border as well as on the regime of cross-border travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Slovenian New Agency STA reported.

The minister agreed on seeking solutions for making it impossible for irregular migrants to cross borders illegally, the STA quoted the Slovenian interior ministry's statement as reading.

They assessed the cooperation between the two ministries and the countries' police forces as good, adding that the operationally and strategically the cooperation has been recently focused on anti-COVID restrictions and illegal border crossings.

The ministers agreed on the preparation of the system for registering information on the entries/departures and refusal of the entry for citizens from third countries, that is non-European Union members, at the Schengen border.

Hojs expressed dissatisfaction with a high number of illegal entries  at the Croatia-Slovenia border, which prompted the Croatian minister to point to a high number of illegal  migrants in Bosnia's areas near its border with Croatia, who are trying to reach destinations in western and northern Europe.

The two ministers pledged to seek a solution to this issue, Slovenia's media utlets reported.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Over 16,000 Illegal Entries into Croatia Thwarted by Police YTD

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - The police have prevented over 16,000 attempts of illegal migrants to enter Croatia so far this year, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic told the national parliament on Wednesday during Question Time.

In response to a lawmaker's questions about irregular migrants, the minister agreed that it was one of the biggest challenges Croatia was faced with now.

So far this year, the police have prevented over 16,000 attempted illegal entries, and 406 criminal reports have been filed against 374 people suspected of organising illegal entries into Croatia, the minister said.

He added that of 2,000 smugglers and organisers of illegal transport of irregular migrants across Croatia who have been arrested since the outbreak of the migrant crisis, 30% are Croatian nationals.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Interior Minister Talks Coronavirus Measures, Illegal Migration

ZAGREB, Aug 25, 2020 - The head of the national COVID-19 response team, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, reiterated on Monday that as long as it was possible, including in the autumn, measures would be adopted locally and regionally, whereas national measures were least desirable, yet he did not rule them out.

Speaking on public broadcaster HRT, Bozinovic commented on the fact that on Sunday, due to a new border crossing regime, people had to wait almost 14 hours to cross the Slovenian-Austrian border because they had to register with the health authorities.

Enter Croatia system very efficient

He recalled that the Enter Croatia system, set up to prevent congestion at border crossings, had proved to be very efficient and that practically no one had to wait to cross the Croatian border.

Bozinovic also commented on Croatia's being put on the red list by some countries due to spikes in coronavirus cases with the explanation that tourists were infected in Croatia.

He said every country was trying to improve its epidemiological situation as much as possible before the school year.

"In the past few months, Croatia was actually the only country which had a one-quarter larger population than it usually has, unlike other Mediterranean countries which recorded a drop in tourist arrivals of up to 80, 90%, whereas Croatia was a little over 50%, and in August at 67% in relation to last year."

Illegal migration - it would help if Bosnia controlled its eastern border

Bozinovic also commented on the migrant situation, saying there were about 10,000 migrants in Una-Sana Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina at the moment and that this was felt in Croatia too as the pressure on the Croatian border was 20% higher than this time last year.

He said there were no migrant movements during the spring lockdown and that "one can state that when there is the political will to hold back the migrants, and I also mean the authorities in BiH, that's possible."

"Croatian police, as always, is up to the task, preventing illegal migration, and it would help us a lot if BiH started controlling entry into its territory on (its) eastern border, which would then be better also for the people of Una-Sana Canton and other parts of BiH, and thereby in Croatia too."

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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Pressure Of Illegal Migrants Mounting On Bosnia-Croatia Border

ZAGREB, June 2, 2020 - The pressure of illegal migrants along the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in the northwestern Bosnian canton Una-Sana is rising, the local police authorities said on Tuesday.

The fewer the restrictive measures which were in place during the COVID-19 lockdown, the more migrants are arriving in this cross-border area.

Busloads of migrants, who are trying to reach western and northern Europe, are arriving in this canton, and there is no more room in the accommodation centres organised for migrants, which is why there are more and more people staying outdoors or in makeshift migrant shelters.

In the last seven days, with the restoration of bus services between cities, between 100 and 150 migrants arrive in Bihac by bus every day, police spokesman Ale Siljdedic was quoted by the Fena news agency as saying.

The local authorities also fear that the situation will be further worsened with the resignation of Bosnia's Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic.

"We will again have a crisis in the Bosnia and Herzegovina agencies tasked with managing migrations," the cantonal prime minister Mustafa Ruznic told the N1 commercial broadcaster.

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